WORKER RIGHTS
 MEDIA BIAS
The Tipping Point
A report on the voting habits of Australians
There is a well-known saying that 'If you are not a liberal at 25, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative at 35, you have no brain' Source Unknown.
Labor and the Greens dominate the 18-24 and 25-34 categories, with the Coalition primary vote at 35% or below. The Coalition primary is ahead of Labor’s in the 35-49 category, but Labor still wins this category narrowly on Greens preferences. In the 50-64 category, the Coalition primary is just short of 50%, and it clearly wins that category. Senior citizens are very pro-Coalition; here, the Coalition has 57% of the primary vote, compared to Labor’s 33.5% and the Greens only have 3.5% in that category. This is the demographic group where the Coalition makes up for its huge deficit among young people.
In Britain, age is a strong predictor of how someone will vote in an election. Older people are more supportive of the Conservatives, while younger people more supportive of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and more recently, the Greens. This is not a recent phenomenon. The graph below shows the pattern of Conservative support by age-group for five elections from the last 50 years, based on data from the British Election Study. Older people are always more likely to support the Conservatives.
For further reading, check out The 2019 Australian Federal Election Study, ANU. See also Economy, Health, Climate Change Top Voter Issues in 2020, by The Australian Institute for current research.
Even where the policy issues believed to swing elections are analysed, it is those of importance to older people that decide Australia's elections. Labor's 2016 MediScare campaign was met with Liberal's ALP death tax in 2019 because health and franking credits are issues that rate most highly with older voters given that on average, they both have more wealth and also more health care needs.
Older Australians were more likely than younger people to identify the economy and health as the most important national political issue. Younger Australians were more likely than older people to identify the environment and education as the most important issue. The Australia Institutite
It is simple to detect the relationship between age and voting preferences, but the numbers do not shed any light on why it is, for example, that people do not vote increasingly progressive as they age- only that the drift into conservativism is as enduring as it is pervasive.
It is tempting to hope that today's children will skew politics to the left as they become the adults of tomorrow, but I think it worth considering the possibility that moving into the workforce is actually the overriding influence the longer one spends in the workforce, the more beholden people become to the system they once resented.
This would both explain the current relationship between age and conservativism and imply that little is likely to change over the long term - if we assume the future is likely to reflect the past. I will return to this follow-up question later.
II think it worth wondering whether one of the reasons people vote more conservatively with age is because they become more sensitive to the punishments applied to anyone who does not go along with the status-quo?
Whistleblowers are salient examples of what happens to middle-class people who go against the establishment. I have engaged with a number first hand and if there was a group of people who I have felt most akin to (as someone excluded from social and economic inclusion for my entire life), it is these people: individuals who go against the system and are broken by the vast majority who remain within it.
Those who risk their relationship with the legal and economic powers doling out rewards or punishments are treated so punitively both on a social and professional level that they often spend the rest of their lives dealing with the consequences of that decision.
Unless they are intact and fortunate enough to overcome deliberate efforts to destroy their professional and personal credibility, they soon find out how brutal Australia is to anyone outside of the workforce. How and why they were excluded from participation does little to mediate the ostracism from the networks they depended on.
I imagine that most self-respecting middle and working-class folk like to think they would take the high road, but when those who do are broken for their courage, I think it seems reasonable to imagine that protecting one's self and family seems entirely justified to most.
While whistleblowers serve as extreme examples, they are only extreme in the sense that they experience a social and economic 'fall from grace' and can end up experiencing the poverty and demonisation that others are born into and must attempt to overcome without ever having known what it means to be a valued and respected member of society.
While it might be tempting to malign people for enjoying the privilege of secure employment, intergenerational wealth and the social capital this enables, when the alternative is considered, it would seem that most people decide to go along to get along.
Based on that premise, it seems reasonable to assume that those who do this for the longest become those most invested in maintaining the status quo. After all, they have the most to lose in any shake-up of the social or economic order and those who are without status and liveable incomes have the least to lose.
I propose the un-desirability of giving up one's privilege as one reason contributing to the relationship between age and voting conservative that is found in post-election surveys. That drift is readily observable when listing electorates by proportion of older voters.
I have also raised the question of whether the future will reflect the past. There are currently both short-term issues in Covid-19 and long-term issues in climate change along with the re-emerging prominence of gender and race issues to grapple with.
On the one hand, the rising fascism and may overcome Western democratic ideals and either swing the pendulum further toward extremism or at a minimum, act as pushback against the rise of progressive causes.
Alternatively, the rising fascism may push progressives and moderate conservatives to unite in a way they did not need to prior to their own position in the social order coming under threat from the extreme right.
This drift is seen in the split among conservatives and the rise of moderate independents- probably the strategy most likely to divide otherwise Liberal voters from their party.
What the independent Voices movement actually means for progressive policy is worth considering. While they may gain votes for their concern for climate change, that does not imply they will support other progressive causes.
Having said that, if emerging independents have pushed Labor to roll back the more egregious abuses of our welfare system such as #robodebt and the cashless welfare card, the independents will have influenced progressive values beyond climate policy.
If that comes to pass, then perhaps there is hope that Australia's poor will one day have reason to imagine democracy is capable of giving us a more equal place in the world instead of just bloating the middle class to a size that protects Western democracies from an underclass revolt.
|Electorate||Ages 35-50||Ages 18-34|